Data from the second monthly report on applications and acceptances for postgraduate teacher preparation courses shows little overall change for last year. The trend is still not good, with 10,270 applicants domiciled in England as at 16th December 2019, compared with 10,820 on the corresponding date in 2018 and 11,430 in 2017. The good news is that there are more applicants this year from London and the surrounding regions, and the fall in numbers is more marked in applicants from the north of England where filling teacher vacancies has been less of an issue.
There are fewer applicants in all of the age groups compared with last year, and those shown as ‘age 22’ numbered just 1,510 this December compared with 1,910 in December two years ago. There are nearly 500 fewer women applicants this December, and 150 fewer male applicants. Male applicants make up less than a third of applicants in December 2019.
Fewer applicants also means fewer applications. Total applications were down in December, from 30,930 in 2018, to 29,330 in 2019. In 2017, the number of applications in December was over 33,000. Although it will concern providers, the fact that the bulk of the reduction in applications is for primary ITT courses; down from 14,720 in 2018 to 13,380 in 2019 will be something of a relief to the DfE, as the falling birth rate means fewer primary teachers are likely to be needed in the next few years that is unless schools receive a large cash injection for more teachers, rather than more pay for existing staff.
Applications for secondary courses at 15,950 were only 150 down on 2018 and very similar to the December 2017 figure of 16,070. Most subjects were at similar levels in terms of offers made by mi-December although art, design & technology, mathematics and Religious Education were slightly ahead of their 2018 position. By contrast, geography was slightly worse than in 2018 and acceptances for modern languages notably so. Is this the first sign of a reaction to Brexit? Certainly overall application levels for languages courses seem well down on last year.
Apprenticeships are the route in primary with more applications in December 2019 than in December 2018. Higher Education seems to be a major loser, with applications down from 6,150 in 2018 to 5,570 in December 2019. In December 2017, Higher Education had recorded 7,870 applications. In the secondary sector, both SCITTs and apprenticeships registered small increases in December 2019 over the previous December figure. All other routes were broadly similar to the previous December.
Hopefully, the government’s recruitment advertising campaign will improve matters in 2020, but compared to the defence forces, I have seen relatively little recruitment advertising for teaching over the festive period. This is despite the massive difference in recruitment needs between teaching and the whole of the armed forces.
If there is not a pickup in early 2020 in the number of applicants into secondary subjects, 2020 will begin to look like another year when training targets are not met and schools will have to make up the shortfall in teachers from other sources. With increasing pupil numbers, the need for more teachers is going to be an on-going challenge for secondary schools.